LILLE, France (Reuters) - French police raided the premises of a Muslim club before dawn on Tuesday as well as the homes of members of the club, in a swoop that the local government prefect's office said was prompted by serious suspicions of pro-Islamist militancy.

The operation involving some two hundred police began around 6 a.m. targetted a club known as Centre Zahra France and 12 of its members in an area called Grande Synthe, near Dunkirk and not far from Calais on France's northern coast

France, home to Europe's largest Muslim community, remains on maximum security alert after attacks over recent years in which Islamist militants and assailants inspired by militant groups such as Islamic State have killed close to 250 people.

"This is a counter-terrorism operation," said a statement from the prefect's office.

"The activities of Centre Zahra France are under particularly close watch given its leaders' clear support for several terrorist oganisations and movements espousing ideas contrary to (French) republican values," it said.

(Reporting by Pierre Savary in Lille; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

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